Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Saturday, April 07, 2007

  Blogging Anniversaries

A year ago today I wrote the first posts for Inconvenient News, Don't trust a liar and An Age of Audacity?. It's a sad comentary on American political culture that they're still as relevant as the day I wrote them.

But it's also a measure of what I try to do with this blog. I avoid ephemeral topics to concentrate on what may have deeper meaning for our culture, society, and politics. It would disappoint me if most of my writing did not still repay reading months least as tokens of a passing scene.

I've heard from a few readers who, after discovering Inconvenient News, have gone back through the archives and found a lot of interesting material. That's the real reward of maintaining a blog month after month.

It's also a yardstick by which I gauge whether blogs are worth adding to my regular reading list. I read their archives, and if they stand up months or years later, then I consider that I've found writers of real merit. I'd like to believe that my own posts have lasting merit, and on anniversaries such as this I almost can convince myself that they do.

I also try to do original reporting, as far as possible avoiding stories that others are covering well. A few times over the years my original research (before the founding of this blog I was posting at several other blogs) has had a major impact on American politics. I'm rather proud, for example, of my role in exposing Dick Cheney's smug embrace of "water-boarding" last October: Feeling chilled? Let your blood boil. The subsequent controversy forced the Vice President to hide from sight at the height of the election campaign.

In any case, this is also the tenth anniversary of blogging (hat-tip to Cernig at NewsHog).

"Blogging and other kinds of conversational media are the early tools of a truly read-write web," said Dan Gillmor, author of citizen journalism bible We The Media. "They've helped turn media consumers into creators, and creators into collaborators - a shift whose impact we're just beginning to feel, much less understand."

The potential for collaboration on line is huge, and despite the tendency for readers to clump at a few name-brand blogs, I believe that the most productive work will be done through joint efforts. Almost two years ago several other bloggers and I put together a site,, that had a significant impact in exposing the Bush administration's duplicity in the rush to invade Iraq, and in encouraging American journalists to revisit the issue.

Since then, there's been an inscreasing amount of excellent on-line collaborative work. I'll single out for praise the example set by ePluribusMedia.

If you're in the mood to think about the future of blogging, you might want to consider this thoughtful post at Planting liberally: New Blog Friday: Blogs that hound the right.

More to the point, bloggers serve the progressive movement in myriad ways. At a most basic level, bloggers serve as information and opinion-spreaders, in much the same way as Roper's influentials or a cross between Gladwell's mavens and connectors. In subtle ways, I think the sheer mass of the progressive blogosphere is also important because it pushes the bleeding edge of web technology, making new technological changes more friendly to progressive causes. That's also a topic for another post.

Small-time bloggers are most powerful, however, when they occupy and cover in-depth a particular niche, whether it be geographical, institutional or topical. Niche-covering is powerful for several reasons.

Occasionally, lightning strikes, and an obscure topic takes on immense importance in national political discourse. At times like these, it's important to have someone "on the scene" who already knows a lot about the topic. Moreover, bloggers serve as important reminders to those in power that someone is watching them.

The latter, to borrow a phrase from naval warfare, could be termed the strategy of the "Blogger in Being"--which like the "Fleet in Being" seeks to deny any potential adversaries complete freedom to act as they will, to behave as if they cannot be challenged. It helps to "keep them honest".

There were of course some spectacularly influential public interest and watch-dog groups before blogging became the rage. Most have adopted the internet as a powerful tool, though so far their use of blogs remains somewhat underdeveloped. Still I want to tip my hat to these groups and the dedicated individuals who often provide the driving force behind such groups. Several of the best are linked in my blogroll.

The post at Planting liberally goes on to argue that bloggers ought to identify specific niches to carve out, jointly.

I think that topical or institutional blog-niches are also very important, and in my new series, I hope to suggest, from time to time, interesting niches of this sort which bloggers can occupy.

It goes on to propose a coherent network of blogs dedicated to watching and correcting all the major news outlets. In fact, an awful lot of blogging is devoted to commenting on the news media, probably too much, though it is done incoherently and with too much overlap of effort. I'd prefer to see more independent and original work on topics that the media are not covering.

In any case, though, collaboration and systematization of efforts would greatly reinforce the efforts of bloggers to promote reform of government and society.

In closing, I'll point to the example that Unbossed has set with its influential series on road privatization. This is a topic that has benefited from the expertise that several of my colleagues have brought to bear. And, unsurprisingly, it is an evergreen. The lobbyists for road privatization never seem to give up, and it seems there will always be a crop of politicians who are ready and eager to sell off the public's roads for a fistful of cash.

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  • Happy Anniversary!

    May the next year see the comfortable squirming more and more, while the afflicted rejoice!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:29 PM  

  • Thank you very much for your good wishes. Hope you enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoy writing for it.

    By Blogger : smintheus ::, at 3:38 PM  

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